Everybody else is enjoying the moment, but Ronni just wants to run.
Changed into sweats, she’s on her second circuit around what the French call ‘La Grande Tour’: at night, this place has an almost unworldly quality, something most definitely out of a big budget science fiction spectacular. She wanted to climb up the structure but was quietly but firmly dissuaded by Alex, which said in her mind that there’s probably a way if there were time to do the homework. Everybody else is at the reception put on to officially celebrate the Tour’s fully operational status, despite large sections of the structure remaining a combination of bare girders and construction. The success in eliminating Spectre’s leadership from the landscape will be front page news for every newspaper, already trending worldwide across the Internet. Ronni doesn’t care she was the heroine, and just wants to imagine this is the run home to a warm flat and green tea. Even caffeine has lost its allure, because inside she’s dead.
This is how it feels to kill someone and relish achievement at the time.
Guilt begins to shift on the third lap, fatigue in legs ignored: endorphins rush, brain releasing the truths taught but only now accepted. Your license to kill is not carte blanche to become inhuman, judge and jury. Each fatality must be weighed and considered, their passing reasoned and reflected, relevant despite the action. She’d watched a man murder his own sister because of the threat sanity presented to his actions. Capturing him would simply have perpetuated the myth, that MI6 entertained this pursuit as acceptable. With his demise at her hands, again the board is cleared and pieces placed back.
Except there is no idea what game to play next.
Exhausted yet relaxed, sitting in the main hanger after a fourth circuit, Ronni listens to the night shift at work, maintenance and continued construction. These are soothing sounds far more acceptable than being forced into other people’s conversations. She doesn’t want to drink either, because losing control isn’t a state that holds any kind of interest. Mostly solitude beats everything and, with a stab of revelation, comes the understanding that this is how the job should work. If she’s going to deal with fallout for the rest of her career, then listening to a focussed mind is important in grasping how to cope with pressure.
Sitting crossed legged on a large pile of crates, the surroundings of La Grande Tour help soothe remaining stresses. Closing tired eyes, she breathes in calm and expels the drama. Bond had kept his promise. He’d protected Madeline until the end, and they’d ripped out the heart from an organisation which was dead in all but name. It was no surprise he’d consider leaving now, never returning to the number. Considering the toll it had taken on his life, 007 should have been more than done a long time ago.
As eyes open, James stands opposite, genie finally without a bottle for comfort. Staring with concern, approaching with distinct lack of theatrics, the inevitable can no longer be ignored.
‘You want to be disturbed?’
‘By anybody else? No. Always by you.’
Coming to sit beside her, still in mission gear, Bond appears far less comfortable than she remembers, as if the uniform suddenly stopped being appropriate or acceptable. He pauses to consider, taking in the space, obviously troubled for a lead in.
‘I did leave this job, once before, but the previous M never processed the paperwork. That was also because of a woman: I’m depressingly predictable if you do enough research.’
He turns to stare into her soul, memory of Vesper still as bright as ever, yet comfortable with the admission. Lynd’s significance has never dimmed in James’ heart, as it was with her and Scott. Their substance moulds both, in different ways; without this trauma they’d not exist as close as they do to the other. Then he can’t look at her any more and has to stare somewhere, anywhere else and Ronni grasps that there’s still work to do in setting all the demons to rest. For a long time he remains, no need for any more explanations. What matters most, at least now, is simply the presence.
‘Remember how I told you I struggle with conversation when I’m not working?’
‘You may have mentioned it, yes.’
‘I’m woeful when it comes to discussing emotional issues. Mostly because I just pretend they don’t exist and carry on regardless.’
‘There was that time in the Barracks when you told me about how you coped with the pressure.’
‘After which I almost ran out of the changing area.’
‘That’s happened to me too. I can sympathise.’
The silence that follows is beyond telling, and 004 knows why. To complete her transition, one act remains… except Bond’s not willing. That had been apparent since they returned from Paris, before she’d left the celebration reception… and now, unable to even meet her gaze, 007 knows what’s coming next. The juxtaposition of their roles in theatre was complete, but life afterwards appeared in flux. This was the moment she took charge here too, like it or not. The power was hers to wield as she saw fit.
With an almost theatrical deep breath, it is time to redefine two existences.
‘Correct me if I’m wrong, but when a mission is successfully completed, as the senior 00 in the field I’d be expected to celebrate with the individual that assisted me. I’m afraid that if I do, it could destroy the most important relationship I’ve ever had.’
Ronni exhales, unassuming acquiescence, comfortable grasping the significance of her statement. James’ shaking hand slips across her leg, resting without movement: fingers wrap around his and remain, reassurance in a simple action that’s needed. All the symbolism in the world didn’t matter one iota: this is what they have become.
‘Do you mean that, Veronica?’
‘I’ve never been more sure of anything since the day I decided I was born to be a spy.’
‘Doesn’t that cause something of a conflict of interests?’
‘Amongst other things, yes, but however far I run I’m never going to escape the inevitable, so I may as well accept it and see what happens.’
‘That sounds like an appropriately considered response. That’s very you.’
It is painfully awkward, two of them sitting together, that passion has effectively evaporated under the undoubted weight of vocational expectation. When she looks to him Bond is fixated on fingers, still won’t meet her gaze and only then is Ronni aware that she isn’t the problem. In the time before they’d slept together he’d kept distance through professionalism, but this is different. If she didn’t know better… and so it has to be his move.
‘What would you like to do tonight, James?’
‘Not screw this up.’
‘You think that’s a possibility?’
‘I have no idea. It is probably significant at least three people told me to come and find you, none of them considered it a test and not once were the words ‘assessment’ or ‘metrics’ used. I knew you’d want the time alone, the last thing you need now is to play the 00 endgame. After that, let’s be honest, I don’t have a fucking clue.’
Ronni has to smile because that’s what he generates inside, capacity to be so much more than possible alone. What happens now however is briefly beyond her understanding, as this is never a situation she’s experienced as an adult. She stares at the faded face of a Poster Boy who lost everything he was for an ideal still worth dying for, and wants to hold him, and so does. Both arms wrap around torso as head leans into his shoulder. Ronni closes eyes and tries to send him some of her calm, in the hope he’ll relax. The tension within his frame is inescapable, and then comes enlightenment. He doesn’t want to touch me.
He’s afraid he’ll ruin this too.
Ronni finally lets go, staring off into the Hanger, desperate for inspiration. Having someone else to consider is suddenly welcome distraction from everything else, surprise that then rocks brain with force. They’d used each other as physical relaxants in the main, and it had never occurred that the same could be considered for the emotional. He was lost, stuck and unable to feel confident that he could interact successfully. This was the job you promised to maintain for him before you became 004, one person who doesn’t destroy his emotional frailty.
This job now presents an unexpected bonus: you get to present terms going forward.
‘As this is unknown territory… perhaps I could resolve both our issues, whilst defining some new metrics as I go. That’s part of the remit as senior, 00, isn’t it?’
Bond’s head turns, interest obviously piqued as Ronni uses the job to solve their impasse.
‘You intend to make this complicated or can I do one word answers?’
‘Yes or no works just fine.’
There’s the first hint of a smile, that concerns are being assuaged. Before Ronni feels confident enough to vocalise thoughts previously kept very much private, Bond shifts suddenly, up and off the crates, standing next to where she remains sitting.
‘If I told you tonight I just wanted to sleep with you and nothing else, no sex, would you be able to accommodate that, 004?’
The smile this action creates inside Ronni causes stomach to flutter: having offered an easy route, simplicity of a one word answer, James took the responsibility instead. If the depth of his care wasn’t abundantly apparent already, this could be understood as the benchmark to end them all. They don’t need the job to define each other, just themselves.
‘Yes. A thousand times.’
Relief in his whole body is palpable, this was the desire all along. He’s not expected to perform or hit a target, not with her, never with her. The next question however is a little more problematic, because since Ronni’s been here she’s not existed anywhere except the Infirmary, this hanger or the control centre.
‘So, how do we make this happen?’
Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.